If 2020 taught us anything, it’s that education in the home can be as important as education in the classroom. As schools across the country closed and scrambled to roll out remote learning, parents had to be both teachers and tutors. For some parents, that was a tall order. The last time many parents touched a math textbook was years prior, and the thought of helping their child find the hypotenuse of a triangle or solve for unknown variables was scary for many. Even before the pandemic, many parents feared the day their child would come home with math homework that was over their heads.
Fear not! Whether you’re a math whiz or math-phobic, there are plenty of resources to help! One of them being this blog; it is full of strategies to help you and your child with math.
Don’t Stress Out, Stay Positive
Before you even touch a textbook or discuss a single problem with your child, it helps to go into the task with a positive growth mindset. If you get upset, your child will get upset. Remember that your child already feels stressed because they’re struggling with the work. Try not to add your frustration to the mix. If you feel like your emotions are getting out of hand, it’s okay to stand up, take a walk, catch your breath, and return to the problem later. The same goes for your child.
It’s also okay to say, “I don’t know the answer, but we can solve it together.” In fact, it can help your child feel more comfortable to know you don’t expect them to “get it.”
Helping your child understand that not knowing how to do something doesn’t mean they are bad at it. Many children think because it is difficult that they must not be good at the concept. Teaching them that math is a puzzle to be solved, not automatically known, will help them see it as a fun challenge rather than a task they cannot complete.
Manage Expectations, Both for You and Your Child
Remember that just because you easily picked up a particular concept in school doesn’t mean your child will. The human brain is incredibly complex, and each child’s mind grows in different ways and at different rates. That also means that the way you learned something might not work for your child. Expecting your child to understand everything you tell them will cause a lot of angst for you and them.
Similarly, it would help if you manage your child’s expectations regarding how you will be helping them. As a parent, it is your responsibility not to do all the work for them. Part of the learning process is to struggle and search for answers. Your job is to help identify potential problem areas, offer positive feedback, and help improve their understanding of concepts–not give them the answer.
Understand your Resources
It can be difficult to guide your child when you don’t understand the subject matter yourself. There’s no shame in popping open their textbook, getting online, or even phoning a friend when the need arises. If you still don’t understand it, there are many resources to help you and your child understand the concepts. Here are just a few available to you:
- There are several online math classes. One of the best is BYJU’S FutureSchool that offers a free trial and 1:1 instruction! They also offer dozens of online courses for coding and music, with more to come.
- YouTube and Google: Chances are you first found this article by googling something like, “how to help my kid with math.” Google and its video counterpart Youtube are incredibly powerful tools for finding information on difficult subjects. Just typing your child’s subject into the search bar can yield dozens of tutorials and concise videos.
- Mathway.com: We suggest this resource, along with all online math problem-solvers, with a big caveat. You should never use this kind of tool to help your child “find the answer.” However, if a particular problem has stumped both you and your child, it might be time for some outside help. Inputting the problem into an online solver allows you and your child to see the steps needed to obtain the answer. This visualization can prove to be extremely valuable.
Tips for Solving Word Problems
Word problems can seem very difficult for children. One of the reasons is that they are applying mathematical concepts, but reading comprehension is also being used. Here are some strategies for taking those “scary” problems and knocking them out of the park!
Write it Down (In your Own Words)
Simply summarizing what you and your child understand about a word problem helps your child’s brain process what the problem is asking them to do. They can even write the problem in their own words. Once the child comprehends what is being asked and what facts are present, they can start to apply the mathematical operations that it will take to find a solution.
Break it Down
Of course, you can’t exactly write a long equation in your own words when you’re solving for x. For both word problems and equations, the next step is to break down the problem into smaller components. Often, a problem can seem impossible when observed as a whole. But many of the most complex math problems are just a series of simpler operations.
Start With What You Know
Another benefit of breaking down problems into individual components is identifying the parts that are easier to solve. Often, just by starting with what they know, the more opaque parts of a problem can solve themselves. And if they don’t, it becomes easier to tell what they are struggling with (so that you can google it).
It’s Okay to Save a Difficult Problem for Later
This applies during homework as much as during tests. If you and your child are banging your heads over a particular problem, it’s okay to teach them to skip it for now. By doing other easier problems, they are building the fundamentals that will help make that difficult problem more manageable. They will have more tools available to solve it when they come back to it (possibly after taking a break, as suggested above).
Be Sure To Communicate With the Teacher
There’s a good chance that if you and your child are struggling with a specific problem, then other parent-students are also struggling. Check to see if your child’s teacher has left any notes regarding particular issues. If not, then there’s no shame in sending your child in with a question about a specific problem, especially if you’ve both put your noggins together but to no avail.
The Benefit of Extra Lessons
You don’t have to shoulder your child’s education all on your own. In the same way, the pandemic has forced us to try at-home learning; it’s also inspired different organizations to step up and lead the charge in helping children acquire the skills they need to be successful and find joy in learning!